Destiny in a Box
by Angela Campbell
Dee lifted the packaging paper out of the box that had come in the mail this morning. The box she knew contained some inheritance from her late grandfather. She’d barely known the crotchety old man, but his death, just before the disappearance of her fiancé six months ago, had been a heavy blow.
The police believed Liam had gotten cold feet and taken off of his own accord. She’d had a hard time believing her grandfather’s devilishly handsome assistant had fallen for her anyway. Dr. Jeffrey Smith had been her only living relative, a mostly absent figure in her life, but she’d loved him. Now both men were gone, and she truly was alone in the world.
As warm fur brushed against her elbow, Dee jumped. No. She wasn’t alone. She still had her faithful cat, Loki, a gift from her grandfather when she’d been 16. Her lovey dovey, cuddly wuddly baby boy.
As the cat jumped into the medium-sized UPS box, the crinkling of the paper inside rattled her nerves for a reason she didn’t understand. Foreboding settled heavy in her gut, stilling her actions.
Did she really want to know what was inside this thing?
Peeling back the paper, she saw a book. The Heart-Shaped Box by Destiny S. O’Connell.
The air left her lungs on a gasp. “What is this? Some kind of joke?”
Destiny Smith was her full name. Destiny O’Connell would have been her legal name had she married Liam on Valentine’s Day as planned.
Loki dug at the paper, revealing two small, velvet boxes. His head nudged one toward her hand, but her gaze was focused on the envelope wedged between his body and the cardboard. She lifted the paper out of the envelope, her heart beating a steady rhythm in her ears.
Dearest Destiny. I know what happened to Liam. If you want to discover the truth, put on the ring. Make sure Loki is fitted with his charm first. The book is included in case you need convincing. Yours, J.S.
She read and re-read the letter numerous times. But it didn’t make sense! How could her grandfather have possibly known what happened to Liam when he’d died before Liam had disappeared? Flipping through the book only inspired more confusion. Its copyright was 1927. The pages were filled with nonsense about a young woman who went back in time to help her grandfather, a scientist/time traveler, battle a race of alien monsters in the Victorian era after receiving a package she fondly referred to as “the heart-shaped box.”
“Ow!” The swipe of Loki’s claw against her arm left behind a trail of blood and stinging pain.
His furry, gray head again nudged one of the black velvet boxes toward her. Frowning, she lifted the lid, exposing a gleaming silver charm with Loki’s name on it.
Hand trembling, she attached the charm to his collar. Heart doing laps around her chest, she slid the ring onto her finger, too.
“All right, then. About bloody time.”
Dee glanced around at the unexpected voice. A man’s voice. British. Suave. Kind of 007-ish.
She saw no one. “Hello?”
“Down here. Hello? It’s me. The, uh, cat.”
Eyes wide, she stared at her pet. “Loki?”
A long sigh preceded the voice again. “My proper name is Baron Von Brohemeaus Jones. I suppose you can continue calling me Loki if your feeble mind can’t comprehend the other. I’ve been tasked with guarding you. A bit boring, I must admit. Absolutely no one has tried to kill you yet. The pity.”
“Very well. We mustn’t dawdle.” Loki pounced out of the box and darted toward the fireplace. “I didn’t think your communication device would ever arrive.”
“Communication device?” Oh dear lord. She had finally gone off the deep end. Flipped. Gone bonkers!
A whistling snapped her attention back to the feline. “Tick tock, Miss Smith. This way!”
The room threatened to spin around her as she watched, befuddled, as Loki nudged a brick beside the fireplace with his head, causing the wall to slide open and reveal another room.
“Your grandfather saved my father’s life when the Crickatar invaded our planet, and now, my family is indebted to yours. Ironically, your planet’s feline species closely resembles my people, allowing me to pass as your pet.” He waited until she followed to close the wall—how? She had no idea. “There’s another box on that desk. Open it.”
This time, it was a heart-shaped box. A thick and wide wristwatch was curled inside.
“Program it to 1888 Whitechapel, and for the love of Phalamacktal, make certain you’re holding onto me when you press Send.”
The digital interface on the watch allowed her to type a date and city. Her fingers trembled as she hit the buttons. Was she even entertaining the idea any of this was real?
Loki’s little head nodded as he jumped up and clung to her sweater, pulling himself up so that she had to either lift him or be clawed to death. “As in Jack the Ripper. Your grandfather is hot on his trail. He’s actually a Crickatar. Nasty creatures, those Crickatars.” Settled in the crook of her arm, he reached over and pushed the button with his paw.
A burst of white blinded her momentarily as ringing deafened her ears. Blinking, she realized she now stood in some kind of alley. Cobblestones were uneven beneath her booted feet, a thin layer of fog curling around her legs.
The ringing sound faded away. The click clack of a horse’s hooves grew louder and passed.
Loki leapt from her arms, so she called, “Wait!”
But the cat had already disappeared into the shadows.
Heart thumping, Dee pinched herself and felt the slight sting of pain. This was real? How could this be real? In the distance, a man’s familiar voice yelled, “Stop!” The slap of feet on pavement stampeded closer, and Dee shrank against the nearest building to get out of the way.
A dark-clad figure barreled past her hiding spot. An older man, gray hair curling at his ears, glasses perched on his pointed nose, gave chase. Dee’s eyes widened. Holy crap! That man looked exactly like her grandfather!
Another person, younger, handsome, with thick dark hair and an aristocratic profile, followed and caused her heart to leap into her throat. “Liam!” she yelled.
He turned, his eyes widening when he spotted her.
“Dee?” Giving up his pursuit, he approached her warily. “Is it really you?” Before she could speak, he tugged her into his arms. “I didn’t think you’d ever get here.”
She shoved him away. “What is going on?”
Three sharp bursts of a whistle blew in the distance, followed by, “Over’ere.”
Liam’s face grew more serious. “I’ll explain everything, but know this. If you come with me now, your life will never be the same. If you prefer, I can send you home. It’s not too late.” He swallowed a deep breath and held out his hand, prompting her to take it. “Your choice.”
Without any protest at all, she took his hand.
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